How to Train for Your First 5K

Define Your Carrot

Register for a 5K and it will serve as your motivation to get in shape and keep your training regular and consistent. The difference between exercising and training for an event is that every workout is purposeful when training and you're less likely to miss a session if you have a target ahead.

Whether this is your first race or you are getting back into shape, running the 5K is a great way to succeed at learning to run—and earn a great shirt too.


Shopping for running shoes and apparel is a lot of fun. The essentials include: a supportive pair of fitted running shoes, technical-wicking socks and a sport watch. Sure, there are lots of fun toys you can purchase along the way, but the best place to start your journey is to get professionally fitted at your local running specialty store. Stride for stride they will support you to the finish line.

Avoid crying, like I did, by starting from your current fitness level.

It's best to shop at the end of the day when your feet are swollen from the day's activities and be prepared to try on several pair. The staff should watch you walk and run in the shoes to make sure they work with your foot type. The shoe should feel comfortable. If not, keep looking.

Use your new running shoes only for workouts to avoid wearing them down more quickly and aim to replace them every 350-500 miles. Mark the date purchased on the side of the shoe to keep tabs on the life of the shoes.

One Step at a Time

Start from where you are, rather than where you want to be. Avoid crying, like I did, by starting from your current fitness level. Running too much too soon is the number one reason most newbie runners quit.

If you are new to running, begin with sprinkling in running with mostly walking. This allows your body, mind and spirit time to adapt to the demands of running and it makes for a very enjoyable running experience. It will also allow you to run a bit farther.

Always begin with a walking warm-up of five minutes to prepare your body for the run ahead. Finish with a walking cool down to bring your body back to reality.

For the running workout, start with 30 seconds to one minute of running and follow with at least double the time power-walking—1-3 minutes, or until you catch your breath. Progress little by little, adding more running to the mix and less walking.

Focus on going farther, not harder. Include no more than three runs per week and alternate run days with rest or cross-training activities (cycling, swimming, yoga, etc.) to allow your body to adapt and recover run to run. Before you know it, you will be running 30 minutes at a time with a smile on your face!

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